Matchup: Georgia

This week, Tennessee takes on Georgia in Knoxville. This is our take on this Vols vs Bulldogs matchup.

The most alarming aspect of Tennessee's team this season has been the inability to stop the run.

Opponents are averaging 188.2 rushing yards per game, which ranks ninth in the SEC and 88th in the nation.

On Saturday, the unranked Vols face a 12th-ranked Georgia team that scissored through Ole Miss for328 rushing yards and is averaging 178.2 per game.

Tennessee's first four opponents ran the spread or spread option. That requires more assignment football. That's not the strength of a John Chavis defense. The Vols like to loop and stunt and stem. You can't do that against a spread or spread option.

And while Georgia has two outstanding running backs in Thomas Brown and Knowshon Moreno, the Bulldogs have a more conventional running game and they start three freshmen on the offensive line. That could help UT's run defense, but it doesn't mean it will be easy to stop Georgia's attack.

``This bunch is never easy to defend,'' said UT defensive line coach Dan Brooks. ``They always come up with some things against us. Their screen game is good against us. They're a good draw team, play-action team. Year in and year out they probably do as good a job as anybody we see with the play-action game. That's a challenge for us.''

While Tennessee has shown some promise on run defense, the Vols are giving up too many big plays in the run game. Is that the fault of the defensive line, the linebackers or the safeties in run support?

``It's the whole football team,'' Brooks said.

So how does UT improve the run defense?

``We just have to do a great job of gap control and run fit and guys making sure they get to the right gap, whether it's front guys, linebackers or safeties,'' Brooks said.

Heading into the Georgia game, is Brooks more concerned or encouraged about the run defense?

``You're encouraged,'' Brooks said. ``We're always going to be encouraged. We've never played scared. We're not going to play scared.''

Perhaps the Vols will be more energized. Auburn's win over Florida has opened the door for several teams in the East Division. If Florida loses at top-ranked LSU Saturday night, a wild race could ensue.

But UT didn't need Auburn upsetting Florida to get juiced for Georgia, a team the Vols haven't beaten in Neyland Stadium since 1999.

``Every year, it's a war,'' Brooks said. ``I think that's the whole concentration. We're getting ready to play Georgia. It's in our house.

``We know it (East Division) is wide open. They know it's wide open. But, hey, it's Tennessee and Georgia, so that's enough.''

Here is a look at the matchups:

Game #: 1134
Site: Knoxville
Date: Oct. 6
Conference: SECE
Coach Match-up:
For the Vols - Fulmer and for the Bulldogs - Richt



UT's line has kept Ainge from being sacked in 160 consecutive passes. The run blocking hasn't been bad. UT just hasn't called that many runs. The per carry average of the top three backs is 5.0. Georgia, which starts three freshmen, has given up eight sacks (UT has allowed two) and the rush average by the top three backs is 5.5.


UT quarterback Erik Ainge has completed 66 percent of his passes for an SEC-best 282.5 yards per game. He's got 10 touchdowns against two interceptions. Georgia's Matthew Stafford has hit 58 percent of his passes for 989 yards with seven touchdowns and three interceptions. He has talent, but he's not as consistent as Ainge.


UT's trio of backs are averaging 5.0 yards per carry. Arian Foster has 297 yards but LaMarcus Coker is a game-breaker. Montario Hardesty might be healthy enough to be a factor on short-yardage plays. Georgia's Brown (78.6 yards per game) and Moreno (86.4) are the second-best duo in the SEC. Georgia is averaging 50 more rushing yards per game than at the same juncture of last season.


UT's Lucas Taylor is averaging 95.5 receiving yards per game and has 24 catches. Josh Briscoe has 23 catches and Austin Rogers 20. UT's receivers actually have more receiving yards through four games than last year's wideouts. Sean Bailey, who missed last season due to an injury, has a team-high 16 catches. Mickey Henderson has 13. Mohamed Massaquoi has 11.



UT is giving up 188 rushing yards per game and the linemen have recorded just four sacks. End Robert Ayers has emerged with three sacks. Georgia is giving up 119 rushing yards per game, but the Bulldogs had trouble stopping South Carolina (140 rush yards), Alabama (164) and Ole Miss (158). End Marcus Howard is Georgia's top lineman.


UT's Jerod Mayo doesn't make as many big plays from the middle, but he leads the team in tackles. Sophomore Rico McCoy is second in tackles. Georgia middle linebacker Marcus Washington is out with an injury, forcing Dannell Ellerbe to move inside. Brandon Miller is solid on the outside.


UT will start two true freshmen – Eric Berry and Brent Vinson. Marsalous Johnson is having a decent year. All-SEC safety Jonathan Hefney hasn't played well, trying to provide too much help to his young counterparts. Despite losing Paul Oliver before the season, Georgia has a solid group, led by safety Kelin Johnson and corners Asher Allen and Thomas Flowers.

S. TeamsCOMMENTSS. Teams

UT punter Britton Colquitt leads the SEC and could handle kickoff duties. Kicker Daniel Lincoln is a perfect 8-for-8 on field goals. Kicks returns have been solid but kick and punt coverage have been weak. Georgia has All-SEC kicker Brandon Coutu. Henderson is third in the SEC in punt returns (14.8) and ran one back for a score against UT last year. Brown had a kickoff return for a TD against the Vols last year.



Georgia has won three in a row at Neyland, and Mark Richt is 23-3 in opposing stadiums. He's 3-0 at Neyland. UT is 11-9 in its last 20 home SEC games. But the players know this is a pivotal game for this season, and, perhaps, for coach Phillip Fulmer.


Tennessee 27, Georgia 24.

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